Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Forest kindergarten hosted by Saratoga spa State Park

Forest kindergartenMay 4, 2009 at 11:47 am by Dennis Yusko, Staff writer
Up to 40 area kindergarten students will attend class outdoors all year long under a new agreement between the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Spa State Park.

The school’s new “Forest Kindergarten” program will launch in September on state park land off Kaydeross Avenue. The school and park are doing minor renovations to a farmhouse at the site and will build a garden on a half-acre of mowed land. Students will use the 300 acres of State Park forest land as their classroom.

“They will spend the vast majority of their days outdoors, even in the winter,” Gina Michelin, the school’s development director said. The students would be brought in the farmhouse’s two traditional classrooms on prohibitively cold or wet days, she said.

The program is unique to the U.S., though countries like Denmark have tried nature-based approaches to education since the 1950s, said Michelin, whose 4-year-old son Sam is one of 20 children already enrolled in the program. The program can accept up to 40 students, she said.

The outdoor classroom aims to battle “nature deficit disorder,” or a lack of free, outdoor play in the lives of today’s children and how it is negatively impacting their physical, emotional and intellectual health, the school says.

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